See if this sounds familiar. A new family shows up at your church, fills out the new visitor card, and never shows up again. You decide to dig a little deeper and learn that, despite their proactive effort to connect, they never heard a word from anyone at your church ... and now they’re gone!
Many churches confuse attending with connecting. They believe getting more bodies in the building is all they need to do. They don’t invest in systems and processes that move people into deeper relationships with God’s family and the church’s mission. It should come as no surprise that the leaders of these churches also wonder why can’t seem to grow in a meaningful way.
Churches that fail to follow up with people are weakening the foundation on which they are built and sending an unhealthy message about Christianity. We need to see this process as a stewardship, not an obligation. Effective follow-up is the first step in discipleship. Without it, we are telling people that they don’t matter and potentially missing a Kingdom opportunity.
Here are several strategies to improve your follow-up process:
- Newcomer Receptions. Host ‘meet-and-greet’ events for newcomers to come and learn more about your church and pastors among other guests in a safe, low-risk environment. Hold these events at least quarterly, but announce them regularly in your bulletins or during announcements on Sunday morning.
- Special Events. Along with your regular newcomer receptions, try hosting special events — Christmas services, harvest festivals, Easter events, youth events in the summer, etc. Big, informal events are a great way to open your church up to your local community as well as to more casual attenders looking to connect beyond Sunday's services. These events also provide an excellent opportunity for other members and attenders to serve.
- Small Groups. At larger churches, it's vital to encourage people to connect with a smaller, close-knit group of believers. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle at church, so encourage your members and attenders to start, lead, or join a small group in their area. Groups can garner their material from the weekly Sunday morning sermons, or they can revolve around preset curricula or Bible study topics.
- Service Opportunities. Provide an avenue for your church body to offer their talents, passions, and abilities in service to God's work in the life of the church and its attenders. These opportunities don't have to be special events. They can include things like volunteering to greet guests on Sunday morning, working as an usher, teaching a Sunday school class, volunteering in the nursery, or working at the church's bookstore or coffee shop. Be sure to provide clear instructions on how to get involved and who to contact, and list some of those opportunities on your weekly connection card to remind people of the various ways in which they can serve.
No matter which of these strategies you implement, you must also develop a solid followup process after the event. Don’t just rely on email. If you use Church Community Builder, build a Process for each of these events and assign volunteers to follow up and help people take the next step. It’s essential you have tool that ensures the followup happens and provides visibility when it doesn’t.
What percentage of people at your church attend but are never connected? How are you addressing this?
You can learn more about how to improve your connections process in our ebook, The Assimilation Engine.